Monday, February 6, 2017
Reading Newberry Medal Winning Books
Rarely, if ever, do I read what I refer to as "drugstore fiction" or what the booksellers refer to as "popular fiction". The one author for whom I sometimes make an exception is Dean Koontz, who writes high quality fiction at his best. My usual reading fare is non-fiction and fiction of literary value and an Appalachian nature and generally related to some research interest in the area of Appalachian Studies. When I want to take a break from this frequently heavier type of reading, I will sometimes read a winner of the Newberry Medal which is awarded annually to the best children's book in a given year. While these books are generally intended for a juvenile audience somewhere between the ages of 10 and 16, they are always high quality fiction, very well written, and worthy of reading by anyone who appreciates great literature. They are books which can turn children into lifetime readers, writers, and students of both literature and life. A few recent winners of the Newberry include "Last Stop On Market Street", "The Crossover", and "The Graveyard Book". Newberry Medal Winners may not be best sellers when they are nominated but are always best sellers, and rightly so, after winning the award. A few previous winners which I have read and recommend highly are "Holes" by Louis Sachar, a juvenile book which will stand up to most adult "great literature" for its plot and counter plot; "The Midwife's Apprentice" by Karen Cushman, a book about a young girl's effort to become self assured and independent; "The Whipping Boy" by Sid Fleischman, a classic novel about an overly entitled prince and his designated whipping boy who successfully change places; and, "Mrs. Frisby And The Rats Of NIMH", an absolute classic about medical research and its dangers at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. The Newberry Medal has been awarded annually since 1922 and I have to say I wish that I had read every winner.
My most recent experience with a Newberry Medal Winner was "Julie Of The Wolves" by Jean Craighead George which is an excellent coming of age story about a young Eskimo girl in Alaska who struggles with her identity between the worlds of the traditional Eskimos and the Caucasians. The young girl in question, Miyak or Julie, becomes lost in the tundra after running away from home and is rescued by a pack of wolves and her knowledge of Eskimo traditions which she learned from her father who is presumed dead following the known death of her mother. The book is an excellent work from a perspective of cultural diversity, coming of age, female independence, and dealing with grief. I recommend it highly for any juvenile reader, especially a female juvenile. These books are an excellent way to encourage children to read and to read real literature of value. Try a Newberry Medal Winner sometime soon.